There’s an unequal struggle that always seems to see humanity succumb, in the infinite effort to free mother earth from evil, which covers it like a ghostly shroud. Humanity writhes, drained by the effort. Its hands, gnarled and shrunken, shows mainly tendons and veins rather than muscles. The endless struggle seems to exhaust its energies, the back muscles are hardened as if they were metal. But, despite this, humanity’s hanging in there, determined not to retreat without fighting with all possible forces.
It’s Humanity Against Evil — L’umanità contro il male — by Ravenna-born sculptor Gaetano Cellini — 1873-1937 — now at Rome’s National Gallery of Modern Art. It was first modeled in plaster, in 1906, to be presented at the National Exhibition in Milan — where it won the prestigious Premio Fumagalli dell’Accademia di Brera —, then sculpted in marble, in 1908.
Cellini hides the face of his figure in the sculpture, so as to make the arms the fulcrum of the perennial struggle. The disproportionate legs, progressively enlarged up to the visible foot, show the base that rests precisely on that obscuring veil, as if humanity originated from evil too, or is supported by it and is part of it — or worse still, that evil is precisely what humanity is based on. The Italian sculptor ventures into a representation that is also a metaphysical hypothesis on the forces of creation: good and evil in struggle, but both forces necessary for each other.
On the pedestal, next to the signature, the significant writing: Così ti sterperò coi denti e l’ugne, Dolore eterno che nel cor mi pugne — Thus I’ll extirpate you with my teeth and nails, Eternal pain that stings my heart.